New Research into How Our Skin Works Might Reveal Cause of Eczema
We all want to know why eczema happens. There are many theories floating around out there, from genetics to simple allergies, but the actual mechanics of the condition are still not very well understood. Well, a new discovery of how the skin sheds its old cells while still maintaining its shape and binding ability might shine some light onto eczema causes, as well as other skin conditions.
Our skin is made up of an outer layer of dead skin cells called epidermal cells, with another layer just below the surface of the skin. These two layers make up the skin barrier that prevents us from, well, leaking! The average human apparently sheds about 200,000,000 dead skin cells per hour and 5,000,000,000 per day. That is a staggering amount and scientists have often wondered how we can lose so many skin cells over the course of a day without the skin barrier losing integrity. Logically, there would have to be a gap somewhere, right?
The article states that the secret of how your epidermal cells stay together seems to have to do with their unique shape, that of a flattened tetrakaidekahedron. This is a 14-sided 3D shape constructed out of a number of rectangular and hexagonal sides. As these skin cells have so many sides, they can always fit together perfectly with their neighboring cells. This, along with a protein that acts like a glue to hold them together, keeps our skin barrier tight and healthy.
When you have a condition like eczema or psoriasis, this is not the case. There are mistakes in the shape of the skin cells that prevent them from forming this tight barrier, like puzzle pieces that look like they should fit together, but don’t. Since the skin barrier is weakened due to these “gaps,” it leaves the skin vulnerable to infection, inflammation, and irritation—all symptoms of eczema. This lack of skin barrier integrity also leads to dryness, as the moisture of the skin can escape, like if you accidently left the lid off some leftovers in the fridge.
There are some other fascinating points made in the article, about how our body replaces these dead skin cells, why psoriasis causes skin thickening, and further thoughts on the incredible shape of our skin cells. The insights mentioned might also lead to further discoveries in skin health. So, although it doesn’t tell us anything that will directly help us in treating eczema, it is good to hear that scientists are constantly learning more about our largest organ and how it works. Hopefully, these discoveries will lead to more effective skin treatments in the future.
In the meantime, this discovery actually highlights why wet wrap therapy can be such an effective eczema treatment. Since the skin barrier is weakened due to the cells not fitting together properly, moisture can’t be kept in the skin. In wet wrap therapy, our Eczema Rescue Suits therefore act as a sort of second skin, helping to lock in the moisture you apply to their skin after a bath. Science for the win!
"New insights into skin cells could explain why skin doesn't leak” <http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-11-insights-skin-cells-doesnt-leak.html>. Medical Press. Medical Press, 30 November 2016. Web. 04 December 2016.